March 07, 2020

Struggling Together after the Pan-Amazon Synod


The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region on the theme, ‘Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for Integral Ecology’, was an historic event which took place in Rome from 6th-27th October 2019. Many believe it would have been more courageous to have held it in one of the Amazon regions. The Synod included the input of 90,000 Catholics from nine countries sharing the Pan-Amazonian region (Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and French Guyana, Surinam, Brazil and Bolivia). The Amazon region was the locus theologicus and the indigenous people were being consulted on how the Church can accompany them today. In attendance were 185 synod fathers along with 16 representatives of different Amazonian indigenous communities, as well as 34 women as auditors or experts but they had no voting rights. 

Sadly, while it is interesting to note that one lay religious brother had been granted voting rights at the Synod, the same right was not extended to any woman even though there were 20 religious sisters at the Synod who had the same canonical status as the brother. This is the third consecutive Synod of Bishops in which a religious brother was counted among the members and allowed to vote but no women religious nor members of the indigenous laity, despite the richness of their experience, were given voting rights.  Women in the Church continue to be excluded from the decision making processes.

The Final Document consisting of 5 chapters and 120 paragraphs was approved with the necessary two-thirds majority.  On the 2nd February 2020, Pope Francis launched this document along with his own Exhortation ‘Querida Amazonia/Beloved Amazon’. The launch coincided with the anniversary of the death of Sr. Dorothy Stang who was murdered in 2005 in the Brazilian Amazon, for defending the rights of poor people to their land.

In this article, I will begin by drawing the reader’s attention to two significant events which took place during the Synod. I will then outline a number of key issues from the Final Document and end with a reflection on Pope Francis' Exhortation. I hope this article will inspire the reader to become familiar with the content of both documents and respond to the challenge to create “new paths for the Church and integral ecology.”

Download the complete article (English) Download the complete article (US Letter) Descargar el artículo completo (Tamaño de papel A4) Descargar el artículo completo (Tamaño carta, EE. UU.

This article was first published in the March 2020 issue of Doctrine and Life

Spanish translation using DeepL Translator. Traducción al español con DeepL Translator

Messages to: Sheila Curran rsm

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